Born to Pharm
Fence Post Diaries
Growing for Tomorrow
Life on a Kansas Cattle Ranch
Modern Farm Wife
New to the Farm
Window on the Prairie
A Farm Wife's Life
Born to Pharm
Fence Post Diaries
Growing for Tomorrow
Life on a Kansas Cattle Ranch
Modern Farm Wife
New to the Farm
Window on the Prairie
Since retiring from my job over a year ago, I've discovered spur-of-the-moment fun and cool experiences occur now that I'm spending more time at home. One such experience happened yesterday when I ventured out to the pasture near our house to take pictures of our bred heifers lunching at the bale feeder. I wanted photos for the next installment of my "Jellyroll" post, but got so much more!
As I was moving around, trying to get a shot of the bale feeder, one of the heifers ambled up to me looking for a snack. I thought, "Gee, I wish Bill was here to get a picture of this." Then, I happened to look at the ground and found the next best thing—a shadow picture. Then, more heifers joined the shadow photo shoot. What fun!
It appears my shadow nearly stuck her right elbow in a cow pie!
The heifer behind me sniffed in my jacket pocket for range cubes. Finding none, she chewed on the bottom of the jacket! That will teach me to remember the cubes when I go to the pasture!
In this picture, the heifer on the right was licking exposed arm where my sleeve was hiked up, then gently clamped her mouth around it just as I clicked the shot! I jumped and yelped, scaring her away. I had teeth marks just above my wrist, but no broken skin.
None of my current categories seemed appropriate for this post, so I've added a new one called "Fun Farm Stuff." At least it sounds better than "Miscellaneous"!
No, this post isn’t about pastries—it’s about hay.
Years ago, three friends from out-of-state, two gals from San Francisco and one from Baltimore, visited us at the Valley Falls farm. None of them knew anything about farming and had never been to Kansas. We took them on a tour of the countryside to see farms, fields, and cattle. As we drove by a field of big round bales, one of the gals from San Francisco exclaimed, “What are those big jellyrolls used for?” Bill and I hooted with laughter! Then he explained what they were and how they were formed. To this day, I can’t pass a field of round bales without thinking “jellyrolls!”
The pictures below show Bill catering a gigantic brome jellyroll to our current pasture residents:
And viewed from inside the cab of the tractor...
We’ve been putting up small square bales for many years. In the chapter titled, “Hay Fever—Not Just an Allergy,” from my book, I included pictures illustrating the baling process for small squares. If Bill wanted big rounds, he either bought some or rented hay ground and hired someone to bale them. He now has the appropriate baling equipment. So let’s rewind to last summer and take a look at that process.
The cutting and swathing step is the same for both types of bales.
The process changes beginning with the raking step. Instead of using the small side-delivery rake that throws cut hay to the side into a windrow (picture on the left), a hydraulic wheel rake is used, which combines two windrows into one. Here is a picture of the wheel rake “at rest.” I’ll have to wait until summer to get an action shot. The tined wheels you see in the air are lowered to the ground when in use.
Once the cut hay has cured, or thoroughly dried by exposure to sun and wind so it has minimal moisture content, it’s ready to bale. The baler picks up the loose hay, rolls and twine-ties it “jellyroll-style” into a size preset on the baler, then the back opens up and rolls the formed bale out onto the ground. Depending on the size of the bales and denseness of windrows, they are dropped anywhere from 50 to 100 yards apart in rows.
The first time I saw a tractor pulling this type of baler around a field, I didn't know what was happening. Suddenly, the back opened up and the bale rolled out. Wow—cool!
Next up: June’s Jellyroll Jaunt—Loading and Transporting
Meet Molly Bolt, the newest member of our family.
We acquired a new family member last year in March, a former tom cat named Molly Bolt. Molly was a street-wise alley cat in Topeka taken in by a woman who rescues strays. She took him to the vet where he was checked over, neutered and given shots. Then she ran an ad in the free classifieds that Bill answered. Molly came with food, toys, cat litter and a questionable name, Mollie, hung on him by the rescuer’s husband who thought ending the name in “ie” was gender-appropriate. I disagreed and renamed him Molly Bolt. A complete name change was out of the question since the cat responded to “Molly."
NOTE: A molly bolt is a specialized type of fastener with a screw head and expandable sleeve used to fasten objects to drywall. When a molly bolt is screwed into the wall, the sleeve expands, anchoring the bolt in the wall. This really has nothing to do with our cat except he needed a more gender-appropriate name.
We introduced Molly to his new home, the barn, and shut him in for a couple of days so he could adjust to the new digs. The day we expanded his world to include the outdoors, Cricket made a gigantic mistake—she treed him. It took several minutes of coaxing by Bill to get Molly down. Later, when Cricket stuck her nose too close, Molly laced it! He hasn't forgotten and reminds Cricket of that fact often. Cricket gives Molly a wide berth.
Molly Bolt messes with Cricket: He camps out beside the communal pet water bowl because he knows she won’t come near it while he’s there!
Molly is missing the tip of his left ear but it’s not a casualty of a feline alley turf war. It's called "ear-tipping" and is a requirement by the Feral Cat Project when free-roaming felines receive free spaying/neutering surgeries performed by participating veterinarians. This mark identifies an altered free-roaming cat to avoid future transport, stress and anesthesia.
Our intent was for Molly to be a barn cat and earn his keep by controlling the mouse and rat population in both barns. However, he makes numerous attempts to upgrade his living accommodations. At some point in his past, he was apparently granted house privileges and free run of the premises, including the kitchen counter-top. Cats are not allowed in the kitchen in this house! Rule enforcement has led to a few alpha male confrontations between Molly and Bill. Molly is a smart cat and knows the boundaries, but obstinate enough to push those boundaries when he’s in the mood. We eliminate temptation by not leaving food out.
We grant house privileges when we are home during the day, but he is fed and sleeps in the barn. Among his favorite places to sack out in the house are:
the couch and on Bill on the couch,
and in an open window.
Molly is a hunter and stalks mice, rats and small rabbits. He earns his keep.
When I was growing up we had cats most of the time, but I don’t remember any of them liked to ride in vehicles the way Molly does. We open a door and he jumps right in. He’ll even ride in the trucks with loud motors; the sound doesn't seem to scare him. Riding shotgun in the Suzuki mini-truck with Bill has always been Cricket's rightful place. Molly invaded her space by claiming dashboard rights and, as you can see, Cricket is not at all happy about it. But, when Bill uses the mini-truck to check cattle in other pastures in our neighborhood, Molly stays home and Cricket rules!
He’s a cuddly, lovable cat, but has a bad habit of playing with his claws unsheathed. We warn guests and also advise them not to touch his stomach or they’ll pull back a lacerated hand!
For all his arrogance, feistiness and stereotypical cat attitude, as Bill frequently comments, “Molly Bolt, you’re quite a cat!”
NEW YEAR’S EVE DAY
Today is the last day of 2013. I hauled myself out of bed this morning earlier than I usually join the daily world, pushed myself through the shower and out the door on a morning marathon mission of shopping. The weather is sunny and fairly warm for this time of year, with the temperature predicted to reach 50 degrees. My goal is to complete my errands and be headed home by mid-day when the streets and stores will likely become crowded with people doing New Year’s Eve and day-before-the-weather-changes-and-we-get-about-two-inches-of-snow errands. One of my errands is a trip to the liquor store which by noon will look like Black Friday at the mall.
Driving into Topeka, I drifted into a philosophical mood and reflected on this past year—truly one like no other in my life. For me 2013 began the morning of January 2nd when I woke up gently around 8:00, not jolted awake by an obnoxious alarm at 6:30, and realized I didn’t have to get up and go to work. I retired from my job of almost 38 years on December 28, 2012. Don’t get me wrong, I liked my job. But an exciting new opportunity waited: finishing and publishing my first book. As a self-published author I would become my own marketing and promotion department, and that would require a lot of time and effort.
As I reflected on the past year I decided to launch a new blog category. If you’ve read my book, you know the first part is about my farm adventures and experiences. The second part is a collection of essays reflecting my “city girl” impressions of various aspects of farming and country life—“Farm Fresh Filosophies.” Since I’m waxing philosophical today, this seems like an appropriate title for this category.
“WOW! WHAT A YEAR!”
This is what we exclaimed as we toasted each other with champagne New Year’s Eve. Like I said, 2013 was a year like no other in my life!
(I arrive at Walmart early to avoid the crowd I’m sure will swarm by mid-morning. As I grab a cart and wheel it into the store, I start writing notes about my 2013 recap on the back of my Walmart shopping list. Incidentally, my list is arranged to coincide with the layout of the store. Anal? Yes, but I’m less apt to forget critical items that will result in crisscrossing the store to get them.)
For me, 2013 began with wading through paperwork: closing out Dad’s estate after his death in November of 2012; moving Mom from independent living in Burlingame to an assisted living facility in Topeka; and my own retirement paperwork. The bulk of the tree-killing was complete by April.
(I’ve gathered up a few items from several departments and am now entering the toilet tissue aisle. I have to rearrange my cart to make room for the “36 double rolls = 72 regular rolls” package. On to paper towels to pick up “6 super rolls = 11 regular rolls.” Huh? Who did that math? No, I don’t want “Select-A-Size.” Between these two items and the six 16"x25" pleated filters for the wood furnace, my cart is full.)
By early in 2013, my manuscript was finished and I was ready to start the actual publication process. A member of my writers group had published six books, and he and his wife graciously shared their insights and mentored me during this process. I chose to self-publish through CreateSpace.com, an online print-on-demand publisher owned by Amazon.com. My mentors also recommended an editor who turned out to be not only my editor, but interior layout designer, graphic designer for printed promotional materials, marketing/promotional mentor, cheerleader and, most important, friend. We hit it off immediately!
(I need wax paper. Hmmm…I not only beat the shopping crowd, looks like I also beat the shelf stockers. Lot of empty spaces in this section including the one for wax paper. There are 18 different lengths, widths and thicknesses of aluminum foil—yes, I counted them!—but no wax paper. How can this be?)
The publishing process advanced from the manuscript stage through editing; on to interior layout and cover design; and to the proofing stage, both digital and proof copies, the latter being actual books. On August 23, 2013, I approved the final proof copy. Two days later, I was notified From High Heels to Gumboots, One Cow Pie at a Time was available for sale on Amazon.com. After four years, my book was published and I was truly an author. WOW!
(Next item on the list is rubber gloves. My current pair is starting to leak and the fingers stick together. After searching two aisles, I finally find the gloves in a display of sponges. Why are these called “Living Gloves?” I’ve never understood this. I can’t find the gloves I usually buy that cost less than two dollars. All I see are some for almost three bucks that are labeled “Limited Edition WINTER SKY BLUE”—like I’m really concerned about making a fashion statement when I clean—and “3 Layers for Superior Protection.” I hope those “3 Layers” make the gloves last longer!)
At one point during the summer, my editor put on her marketing/promotion hat and we met for a session. At one point, she asked, “Are you going to do speaking engagements?” What?! Speaking engagements?! I nearly wet my pants! The last time I spoke in front of a group was college speech class over 40 years ago. Truthfully, I already knew this was a possibility but kept pushing it to the bottom of my “Things I Need to Consider” list. Now it was front and center. Shortly after the public speaking bullet, my editor fired the other barrel: “Have you considered starting a website? How about a blog?” Website?! Blog?! Little ol’ low-tech me?! She proceeded to tell me about the web hosting site she used—it was pretty simple, user-friendly and free. As a result, you are now reading my blog on my website with my very own domain name. Whew!
(Mom asked me to buy a six-pack of small bottles of orange juice for her. I’m looking at about 50 different flavors of fruit drinks and juices and can’t find 100% orange juice. Another “How can this be?” moment. Who drinks passion fruit/raspberry/cranberry/strawberry/blueberry/pomegranate/
orange/pineapple/grapefruit/apple/mango/grape-flavored tropical punch, anyway? Ah, there’s orange juice on the bottom shelf. I’ll get two six-packs. [Later, when I dropped these off at Mom’s I discovered it wasn’t “orange juice” but “orange drink containing 5% orange juice and fortified with 100% vitamin C.” Good grief!])
The whole book publishing process has been one of huge personal growth for me—totally different than anything I've ever done. My tendency was always more introvert than extrovert, more follower than leader. The experience parallels what I said in my book about moving from the city to the farm: It catapulted me right out of my comfort zone! It’s been a blast and I've loved every bit of it!
(Next stop, the cereal aisle to get a couple boxes of Bran Buds. Don’t laugh—you’ll be here some day! Colon issues are ugly business and you don’t want to go there! Continuing on, I need a box of my favorite flavor of K-cups for my Keurig coffeemaker. The Keurig was a retirement/Christmas gift from Bill a year ago and I love it! Hmmm…can’t find my flavor on the shelf in the coffee section so I’ll look in the main grocery aisle where there is a display rack. I make three revolutions around the rack before finally finding my flavor and there are only two boxes. I grab both of them, wondering about whether or not this flavor has been discontinued or if the store will no longer carry it. I’ll deal with this issue later.
Being retired has opened up the opportunity to become more involved in the cattle and farm business. I’m available to be truck driver, midwife assistant, cattle herder, veterinary assistant when we work cows and calves, hay field box lunch provider, farm vehicle shuttle service or whatever job title is required at the moment. Becoming a "farm hand" has taught me more about our operation than was possible when I worked off the farm. I've settled into the role so comfortably maybe this was my destiny all along.
(Heading to the check-out area with my over-loaded cart. Wow...here’s an empty lane! I unload the smaller items and the gal comes around to my side with her scanning gun to scan the large items so I don’t have to pile them on the counter. What a dear!)
I’ve met some interesting and wonderful people this year, both through the book publishing process and as a result of having more time to get “out and about.” I’m finally meeting and becoming acquainted with neighbors beyond our immediate area as I attend local functions and gatherings. I joined the Kansas Authors Club and have met other authors and read or listened to their works. Reconnecting with old friends, some of whom are also now retired, has been fun as we catch up on each other’s lives.
(Getting all this stuff in my trunk will require major organizational skills. I remind myself to make sure all lids on bottles of soap and cleaning supplies are tight. I once had a bad experience with a gallon refill bottle of hand soap that fell over in the trunk: I arrived home with only a half-bottle. The other half soaked into the carpeted trunk liner. I removed the liner and attempted to hose it off on the driveway. Half of the back yard received a luxurious bubble bath!)
Moving my mom to an assisted living facility in Topeka has been a blessing for both of us. She now has the supervision necessary to closely monitor her health issues; tasty, nutritious meals; plenty of activities to keep her engaged; and new friends under the same roof. Having her live closer to me makes it easier to take her to appointments and on outings, run errands for her and just spend time with her.
(My Walmart-ing is finished and I head out to complete the rest of my errands.)
Bill—Technical Consultant on my book, extroverted marketing and promotional person (He doesn’t know a stranger!), husband and my farmer. As I said in my book dedication, “Without you, none of this would have been possible!” You had me from that gigantic head of broccoli you brought to me at work after our first date more than 30 years ago. Love you!
In this rapidly ever-changing world we live in, I take comfort in one thing that remains constant: I always get the Walmart shopping cart with the bumpy, noisy wheel. Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump…
Happy New Year, everyone!